Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), a non-profit community of open-source advocates, announced its withdrawal from GitHub today. The blog post was scathing one-pager urging supporters and members to rebuke this platform.
The SFC’s issue with GitHub is rooted in accusations that Microsoft, OpenAI and OpenAI trained AI program called Copilot using data published under an open-source license.
Open-source code doesn’t come with a donation box. Instead, you can take what you like and make your own modifications to it.
It’s more like photographing. Even though a photographer may not charge you for using one of their images, you are still legally and ethically required to credit them.
According to a blog post on the SFC site, Copilot doesn’t do that when it comes to using other people’s code snippets:
This harkens to long-standing problems with GitHub, and the central reason why we must together give up on GitHub. We’ve seen with Copilot, with GitHub’s core hosting service, and in nearly every area of endeavor, GitHub’s behavior is substantially worse than that of their peers. We don’t believe Amazon, Atlassian, GitLab, or any other for-profit hoster are perfect actors. However, a relative comparison of GitHub’s behavior to those of its peers shows that GitHub’s behavior is much worse.
Background: GitHub is the most popular repository for open-source software worldwide. It mixes YouTube, Twitter and Reddit for programmers and their codes.
There are other options. However, switching between code-repository ecosystems is not the same as trading Instagram for TikTok.
Microsoft purchased GitHub for over seven billion dollars in 2018.
Since then, Microsoft has leveraged its position as OpenAI’s primary beneficiary in a joint effort to build Copilot.
You can only access Copilot by a Microsoft invitation or by paying a subscription.
The SFC and other open-source advocates are outraged that Microsoft and OpenAI are effectively monetizing the code of others and removing the ability to credit those who use it.
Microsoft takes people’s work and strips credit. Then it sells it to other people via algorithms.
A solution: Kill Copilot. OpenAI and Microsoft could also build a time machine that can go back in history and label every data point in Copilot’s database. The second model could be built that would apply proper credit to every output.
It’s easier to take advantage of the Wild West regulatory environment and make money than to care about ethics and the quality of your products and services.
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